The only one thing that you requested was for the garbage to be taken out. A little while later you realize your partner failed to do it. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner replies “I never heard you ask me”. Funny how that works, how your partner failed to hear the one thing you asked them to do. This “selective hearing” is a normal sign that communication is failing.
This “selective hearing” is frequently viewed as a kind of character flaw. It’s as if you’re accusing someone of intentionally not listening. But it’s possible that the real culprit behind your selective hearing might not be a short attention span, it may be the early phases of hearing loss.
Selective hearing – what is it?
You’ve likely been accused of selective hearing at some point in your life, even if no one used that particular term. When you miss all the things you don’t want to hear but hear everything else, that’s selective hearing. You hear the part about cooking a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. That kind of thing.
It’s really common for people to have selective hearing behavior. But this behavior is more prevalent in men than women, according to some research.
It might be tempting to make some assumptions about that (and the way that people are socialized definitely does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). But hearing health is most likely another major component. Let’s say your “selective hearing” starts to become more prominent or more common. That could actually be an early indication of hearing loss.
Hearing loss can cause gaps in communication
Undiagnosed hearing loss can certainly make communication a great deal harder. That’s most likely not that surprising.
But here’s the thing: in many cases, communication issues are an indication of hearing loss.
Symptoms can be very difficult to detect when hearing loss is in the early phases. Maybe you begin cranking the volume on your tv up. When you go out to your local haunt, you have a hard time hearing conversations. It’s likely because the music is so loud, right? And so, other than that, you could go through the majority of your everyday life without even noticing the volume of the world around you. Your hearing can gradually decline because of this. You hardly notice the issue until you’re at the point where you regularly have trouble hearing conversations.
Your partner is becoming worried about the health of your hearing
The people around you will probably be worried. Yes, selective hearing is a relatively common annoyance (even more aggravating when you already feel like no one listens to you). But that frustration often turns to concern when they realize that hearing loss might be the real culprit.
So, your partner may suggest you set up a hearing exam to determine if something is wrong.
Your partner’s worry is significant and it’s important for you to recognize that. Have an open discussion and consider that they are coming from a place of caring and not just annoyance.
Other early signs of hearing loss
You should be aware of some of the other early warning signs of hearing loss if your selective hearing appears to be getting worse. Here are some of those signs:
- Speech sounds distant or muffled
- Consonants are hard to make out
- Trouble hearing in crowds
- Cranking up the volume on your mobile phone, television, or radio
- Requesting that people talk slower and speak up
You should call us for a hearing test if you have any of these symptoms.
Always protect your hearing
Protecting your hearing is so critical to preventing hearing loss. Limit your exposure to noisy environments (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you have to be around noise). Any feathers that you might have ruffled with your selective hearing can be smoothed over by wearing hearing aids to communicate more effectively.
In most circumstances throughout your life, selective hearing is going to be an artifact of a diminishing attention span. But when you (or someone around you) notices your selective hearing getting worse, you might want to take that as an indication that it’s time to get your hearing tested.